Out West with Waugh, College Rivalries

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Player Personnel Assistant Ethan Waugh is in his fourth season with the 49ers and has become a jack of all trades for VP of Player Personnel Scot McCloughan with duties that cover both the pro and college side of scouting. In this latest column, Waugh updates our fans on his recent college visits, some of the upcoming big college rivalry games and the process of preparing for bowl games and the Combine.

When I last checked in, I had just left our game in Seattle against the Seahawks. From there, I cleaned up a few schools in the Northwest and headed home. I spent Thursday in the office in Santa Clara cleaning up a few reports, and then loaded up the next day to drive to the University of Nevada to see their nationally televised game against Hawaii on Friday night. While I allowed myself plenty of time to make the 250 mile drive, I still ran into incredible traffic, causing the trip to take well over six hours. Despite the frustration of fighting the world's longest parking lot (I-80) I was still enthused to see these two exciting offensive teams lock horns – and they did not disappoint. Even though Hawaii's star quarterback, Colt Brennan, played only two snaps due to the lingering effects of a concussion suffered the previous week against Fresno State, the Warriors' run and shoot system still allowed the backup quarterback to throw for 358 yards. Nevada, who averages over 36 points a game, showcased its "Pistol" offense and ran for over 200 yards. The game went down to the wire, with Hawaii kicking a field goal to win the game with just 11 seconds to play. Overall, the atmosphere in Mackay Stadium was incredible – a packed house with great fan support for both teams and a hotly contested game with BCS implications.

Although the Hawaii/Nevada game did not start until late in the evening, I had to hustle back to Santa Clara, where I had a meeting early Saturday morning concerning some modifications we are making to our all-star game and Indianapolis Combine procedures. Although we are currently very pleased with the information that we gather at those sites, we are always looking to streamline the process and ensure that the questions we ask each player are relevant and that we can accurately evaluate the given answer. The meeting was extremely productive, and the ideas that we came up with should help us in the long run.

During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, much of my time was spent preparing for the first game of the all-star season, the East Coast Bowl. While it doesn't garner the national attention like the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game, the East Coast Bowl provides great exposure to a number of players from the lower divisions of college football. Since many of the players invited to the game are from the Northeast, we sent our Northeast area scout (and fellow blogger) Todd Brunner. Todd has attended this game for the last few years, and steadily, more and more players who participate are being invited to NFL camps. Hopefully, he uncovered a few gems, but I will let him tell you all of the details.

This is the final week of the college season, and I have just three teams to look at one last time. I will check in on the Cal players again as they prepare for the Big Game against Stanford, and I will also be present at the Los Angeles Coliseum when USC and UCLA hold their annual battle. One of the great things about college football is the intense rivalry between schools. I strongly suggest to any fan that they should attend one of these games in person – television does not do them justice. I have seen the Cal/Stanford game three times, and the atmosphere is incredible. The tailgating starts a little earlier, the cheering is a little louder, and the hits a littler harder than the average game. I imagine that the USC/UCLA tilt will be much the same. There will be a number of other great rivalry games this weekend, including Oregon/Oregon State, Arizona/Arizona State, Pitt/West Virginia, and of course, Army/Navy.

Following the last weekend of games, the scouting season enters its next phase. Our scouts will have all of their reports filed with the office on December 3rd, but will continue to monitor the prospects as they play in bowl games and prepare for all-star games. The all-star games will begin right after the first of the year and a host of scouts and personnel executives from each club will be present to measure, interview and evaluate the players. Also, in January, the NFL will release what underclassmen are entering the 2008 draft. At that point, we will begin more in-depth research into each of those players' backgrounds and fully evaluate them just as we have the entire senior class.

Following the all-star games, our staff will meet as a group for roughly three weeks and methodically evaluate each player in the country that our scouts have deemed as a prospect for us. This is the point when the board really begins to take shape. By the time we are finished meeting, we have a thorough knowledge of each player's ability, background and character, and if there are any remaining unknowns, we will try to solve them at the combine in Indianapolis or at the pro timing days held at individual schools throughout the month of March.

However, all of that seems so far away - a lot of work remains between now and then, both in terms of evaluation and preparation. Comprehensive books for each all-star game and the Combine must be produced, each player's individual file must be continually updated, measurements and medical grades must be entered, and labels and magnets printed. So, while the college and NFL seasons grind to a halt, the preparation for the draft ramps up, and I anticipate being even more busy for the next five months than I have for the last four.

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